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Floating serenely through a quiet underwater world full of surprises… Once you’ve been bitten by the diving bug, there’s no going back. Try out the crystal-clear Caribbean waters of Aruba, for instance, and you'll experience culture shock in Technicolor. The coral reefs in particular seem to be an entirely different planet.
Coral reefs are often called the ‘jungles of the ocean’ because they are among the most diverse underwater ecosystems on the planet. The jungle terminology is sometimes adopted literally, such as when naming the parrot fish, of which the waters around Aruba are teeming. Sometimes you can hear them nipping at the coral with their ‘beaks’. The number of coral reefs to explore on Aruba is enormous, but here is a top 3.
Mangel Halto is said to be Aruba's best diving and snorkelling spot. Past the shallow reef, you’ll find an amazing and very diverse ecosystem with beautiful gorgonians, anemones and sponges. A confetti of fishes in all sizes swim among them: perciform fish, blackbarred grunts, sergeant majors, stingrays… the list goes on and on. In deeper waters, you’ll find octopi, green moray eels, nurse sharks and barracudas. With a bit of luck, you might see gracious sea turtles coming to shore to nest on the beaches in the spring.
Boca Catalina and the nearby Catalina Cove are excellent options for beginners. This small snorkelling paradise is located on the northernmost tip of the island. The waters here are calm and shallow. Snorkelling doesn’t get any easier than this: simply walk from the Boca Catalina beach into the water and let the current carry you along the coral. You’ll float past sponges and starfish in all imaginable colours, entire schools of sergeant major fish, surgeonfish and parrot fish and ultimately end up in Catalina Cove.
Santana Reef is probably the most ‘pure’ diving and snorkelling area in Aruba. Although not recommended for beginners, anyone with experience can enjoy this unique spot. The deeper areas in particular are virtually untouched. Apart from coral fish, you’ll see lots of fish species from the open ocean. Caution: the currents can get strong. Beginners would be better off at the aptly named Baby Beach a half a kilometre away.